The only real missing piece, for this reviewer, was actual software that hit “all the right buttons”, much like WordStar did for Mr. George Martin on MS-DOS, and didn't feel like complete work to use.
We needed something that provided “three legs to support the stool”, which included
- Legibility. The Amiga’s bitmap screen font is a very easy to read font. Many of its proprietary vector (a.k.a. compugraphic) fonts were very hard on the eyes and made real writing a huge issue (for this author, at least).
- Basic formatting. At a minimum this would include bold, italics, underlining, paragraph tabbing and other basic formatting. Paragraph breaks are an absolute must, of course.
- Transferability. The saved text file should be able to be created on the Amiga and easily transferred to a PC or Mac, with very little “fixing” needed between platforms. Without this, what's the point?
Did a cross-platform Word Processor ever truly exist that could be used today, beyond what was discussed before under the required parameters? For what it’s worth, many of the afore mentioned classic word processors were fine for the Amiga back in the day when you never needed to leave the system.
Ever since this quest began, in the back of my mind I knew if there was any chance of finding the right software package it was likely to come from a larger U.S. publisher, not a small shop or weekend warrior. WordPerfect always seemed to beckon, but was nowhere to be found.
WordPerfect for the Amiga was, or is, about as rare a creature to be found for the Amiga platform today on physical disks. It’s more like a myth than an actual product that ever existed, except we have magazines from the late 80s, like Amiga World, declaring WordPerfect’s brilliance as proof that it did indeed exist.
WordPerfect 4.1 for Amiga was released in 1987. It later shipped with a separate update disk that pushed it to 4.1.2, but it didn’t sell well at all. Originally, it sold for $395 on the Amiga (equivalent to just over $800 in 2016 dollars), so that didn’t help spread the program like wildfire, either. It was very DOS-like in look and feel and was functionally much like WordStar in many respects. At the time, WordPerfect was criticized for being a non-graphical word processor on a very high-end graphically oriented computer. In 1989, the WordPerfect Corporation announced it would stop developing the software after having lost over $800,000 on the platform and fearing Amiga users simply had to have a GUI. However, “hundreds of Amiga users called the company and left online messages saying they would be satisfied with a program like IBM WordPerfect 5.0.” (Quote from Compute! #111, August 1989.) WordPerfect Corp decided to continue to support the DOS-like program until 1992. This was far better than the Atari ST fared, for what it is worth.
But… where was one to find a physical copy today? Many moons ago, out of bored desperation, I created a Search Alert on Ebay in the off-chance a copy might show up. Every month or two I would get an email alert letting me know someone was selling the original manual.
But then, suddenly, I was alerted to a complete box set, with all disks. Did they work? No idea - buyer beware. They wanted $150, but I somehow won it for only $20. A week later it arrived. Good lord the package felt like it was a solid brick! They didn’t mess around with the 3-ring binder manual. Taking a deep breath I inserted the disk into the floppy drive. It had a “clean” sound when the disk was read. Bad disks often sound worn out and sad just from a simple read. This was that smooth and silky sound with no scary “rrr-rrrr” floppy disk sounds - the sounds of death.
I was able to completely install the the entire package to my compact flash HDD! So far so good.
Then I loaded it up.
Like Wordstar on DOS, it works entirely from a CLI shell window. The program is menu-driven and keyboard driven. And great Zeus the chunky bitmap fonts are the normal, gorgeous Amiga system fonts!
I quickly typed a test document, added a few formatting whistles and bells, and quickly misspelled a few words in my haste along the way. I was not notified by WordPerfect of my mistakes. But, can I export the file to a modern system? Can I export my work and save the file with basic rich-text formatting? Yes. I. Can.
If I save as WPD or WP4, and transfer the saved file to my Mac or PC, the result looks totally flawless from my initial tests. This is the answer to writing on the Amiga I’ve been looking for. On my Mac, to open the WordPerfect file, I downloaded open-source Libre Office, which completely handles WordPerfect files, even from the most original file types like WP4 or the more generic WPD. I can even very easily change the color scheme, should I so desire, to even more closely mimic a DOS writing environment by making the background black and foreground text white. Just a few clicks, and I’m ready to write my own book 7 of “A Song of Ice and Fire”, just in case its ever needed. (Hint: It won’t be.) Word processing on the Amiga can happen, be a total joy, and be transferable to modern storage media and word processors with most of the formatting perfectly in place. Period.
If you find a copy (and ADFs are out there if you hunt) and still have your old Amiga nearby, give WordPerfect a try. It really is great. I do not believe this exercise is worth your while in emulation - seriously, what would be the point of that? If you do find ADFs out there and still have your old Amiga box, this is hands down the best Word Processor for you to use, in my opinion.
Note: Apparently there was a 5.0 version created for Amiga at some point, too. If you ever see a copy, let us know! I’ve personally never seen it. I’d love to know what differences there might be between it and 4.1.2 (which feels “perfect” already).
I have made ADFs of this ancient but excellent software and am providing them for your personal use to download here. The ADFs were made from original disks originally created in 1990. They are totally error free.